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Edna could tell when a cake was done just by listening.From Small Town to New York City: Lewis left Freetown at age 16, after her father died, and moved to Washington and eventually to New York City.Her first jobs in New York City included ironing in a laundry and as an employee of the Daily Worker (a communist newspaper).

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Edna’s grandfather also started the first school in Freetown, classes were held in his living room.

Early Cooking Lessons: Lewis acquired her cooking skills and love of freshness and seasonality growing up in Freetown, where such things were part of life.

She learned most of her cooking from her Aunt Jenny.

They used a wood-fired stove for all their cooking and didn’t have measuring spoons or scales, so instead they used coins, piling baking powder on pennies, salt on dimes, and baking soda on nickels.

The Grande Dame of Southern Cooking: A tall, commanding woman, Edna Lewis was also a giant in the culinary world as well as in life.

The granddaughter of freed slaves, Edna would grow up to be a great chef, culinary ambassador, and caretaker of genuine Southern cooking.She would inspire a generation of young chefs and ensure that the traditional folkways of the South would not be forgotten.More than a skilled cook, Edna Lewis touched the lives of those around her with grace and the beauty of life. Childhood: Edna Lewis was born on April 13, 1916, in Freetown, Virginia. Freetown is a tiny rural community founded in the late 19th century by three freed slaves, one who was Edna’s grandfather.Edna's Cooking Becomes Legend: In New York Edna’s cooking was making her a local legend.Here was a person who really knew Southern cooking.In 1948, when female chefs were few and black female chefs were even fewer, Edna opened her own restaurant with John Nicholson, an antiques dealer and bohemian with a taste for high society.